A growing body of medical evidence suggests that the benefits of breastfeeding extend to both babies and their mothers. According to research published by the World Health Organisation, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of conditions like asthma in babies and certain cancers in mothers. New moms who are navigating this intimate and crucial phase of their journey for the first time may find parts of the process challenging. But with patience and practice, breastfeeding can be both a physically and emotionally enriching experience.
Commenting on this ahead of World Breastfeeding Week is Li-Anne Hide, Marketing Manager at Huggies, who encourages expecting mothers to listen to their intuition and their body’s needs as they enter into the breastfeeding phase. As he/she adds: “Some of the benefits of breastfeeding include better immune system support as well as benefits that extend into early childhood development. But breastfeeding goes beyond a means by which to provide sustenance.
It’s also about the profound bond that connects a mother to her baby in a way that few other natural processes can. And while there are a few guidelines on the methods and techniques that have worked for new mothers, fostering a deep connection with your own body and how it is responding to the process is the first step in making breastfeeding work for you.”
1. Start strong with superfoods
Touching on some of these guidelines, Hide recommends starting with your diet. During the postpartum period, nourishing the body with nutrient-rich superfoods becomes even more crucial for breastfeeding mothers.
Incorporating foods like spinach and kale; which are rich in iron and calcium, can help replenish some of the nutrient stores depleted during pregnancy. Chia seeds and flaxseeds, which are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, are known to aid in brain development for babies and promote overall well-being for mothers.
Additionally, colourful berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, are brimming with antioxidants that boost the immune system and protect against oxidative stress. Superfoods like these not only enhance breast milk's nutritional content but also contribute to a mother's energy levels and overall vitality during the demanding but rewarding journey of breastfeeding.
2. Pump if it works for you
Some mothers may turn to pumping as an efficient way of generating and storing their breast milk. But while pumping can be a useful tool for some moms, it's not necessary for everyone. Direct breastfeeding is often more efficient and allows for a stronger bond between mother and baby. If you do need to pump, try to introduce it after breastfeeding is well established, usually after a few weeks.
3. Put comfort first
Contemporary moms with busy schedules may find themselves needing to breastfeed on the go. For this reason, it’s important to learn how to position the baby optimally to ensure a proper latch and avoid discomfort.
There are several recommended positions, each with its benefits. The cradle hold is a common position where the baby's head is cradled in the crook of the mother's arm, and the baby's body faces her chest. The cross-cradle hold is similar, but the opposite arm supports the baby's head, providing more control for latching. The football hold is ideal for mothers who have had a caesarean section or twin babies, as it positions the baby at the side with legs tucked under the mother's arm, resembling a football. The side-lying position allows the mother to lie down while nursing, promoting a more relaxed experience, especially during night-time feedings.
“Regardless of the position chosen, it is crucial to ensure the baby's body is facing the mother's chest and that the baby's head, neck, and body are aligned in a straight line. This helps the baby latch properly and ensures efficient feeding. Experimenting with different positions and seeking support from a lactation consultant if needed can help both mother and baby find the most comfortable and effective breastfeeding position,” adds Hide.
4. Nipple health is an important part of self-care
Hide concludes that another important way to prepare is to ensure that proper care is taken to maintain the condition of your nipples. Interestingly, the best remedy for over-stimulated nipples is breast milk itself. After each feed, smooth a few drops of breast milk over the nipples and allow to dry. Breast milk has natural anti-bacterial properties that can help provide a protective barrier against infection. Applying lanolin to the nipples after each feed is another way to prevent nipples from becoming dry, cracked and sore.